As those of who you’ve perused my occasional scribblings here have doubtless noted, I’m something of a fan of classic Christian rock. And am occasionally prone to understatement, although it’s not my superpower. I don’t have one of those. But I digress.
Anyway, a longtime favorite band is The 77s. Hailing from Sacramento, thus making them about the only worthwhile thing to come from that political cesspool, The 77s, led by singer/guitarist extraordinaire/main songwriter Mike Roe, are one of those extremely rare bands that manages to carve two distinct yet not unconnected musical paths, one in earthy blues and one in shimmering guitar pop. And they’ve been doing so for decades.
Lately Roe has carried a heavy burden, taking care of his father as he has steadily drawn closer to the end of his days on this earth. Like most every other Christian rocker from back in the day, Roe is anything but independently wealthy, and needing to focus on his dad’s needs instead of making a living with his music has taken a toll. Thus the title of this post: you help him by buying some downloads and perhaps a CD or two, Roe blesses you with his musical and lyrical gift.
Ah, but where to begin — for that matter, where to find out what Roe and the 77s sound like? Glad you asked. (You did ask, didn’t you?) Your faithful scribe has assembled a suggested playlist covering gritty and graceful highlights. Each song title links to the band’s Bandcamp page where you can listen and buy, with one exception. Shall we?
Perfect Blues — One of Roe’s greatest gifts is the ability to lyrically play devil’s advocate, or if you prefer illustrating those on the wrong side of the spiritual tracks. Driven by an irresistible rhythm and hook, Roe evidences his Clapton-level guitar skills — yes, he is instrumentally accomplished to where he is properly noted as being a legit six-string master — and weaves his magic.
What Was In That Letter — Roe has never shied away from discussing relationships, be they good or bad. This time through, along with co-writer Mark Tootle who played keyboards and guitar in the band’s first lineup, he ices a powerhouse tune with musings on just how powerful words are on both their intended recipient and those near to said recipient.
Make A Difference Tonight — This mix of sparse verses and slamming chorus showcases a lyrical cry for deliverance. And may mark the only time you’ll hear the words thatches and tares in a song.
Woody — Written by Roe and bassist Mark Harmon, who joined the group in its second lineup. Laid atop a massive guitar riff, it’s another lyrical cry for deliverance, albeit this time through from a believer.
Snowblind — Written by Roe and Harmon. What, every Christian band doesn’t do heavy blues to the point of near metal songs about cocaine addiction? Side note: currently unavailable for purchase along with the rest of the album from which it comes, but it will be re-released later this year.
Nuts For You — Don’t have the songwriter information in front of me for this one; sorry. This is Roe and company at their most playful. In keeping with the band’s pattern of lyrics you’ll never hear elsewhere in Christian music, this time through the line of choice is “bust my butt.”
Caught In An Unguarded Moment — Written by Tootle, Proctor, and Roe. Aaron Smith, who before he replaced Proctor after The 77s first album was in San Francisco new wave favorites Romeo Void, lays it down as Roe and company counterpart with a stark musical/lyrical observation of life’s fragility.
I Can’t Get Over It — Written by Roe and Dave Leonhardt, who would become a member of The 77s second lineup.
MT (from Sticks And Stones)
Falling Down A Hole (from Ping Pong Over The Abyss; originally released in 1982)
Deep End (from Pray Naked)
Don’t, This Way (from Sticks And Stones)
Nobody’s Fault But Mine (from Drowning With Land In Sight)